Below Stairs

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell Read Free Book Online

Book: Below Stairs by Margaret Powell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Margaret Powell
Tags: Memoir, Britain, society
under her, so it didn’t make a lot of difference what Mary thought about her.
    After tea I went and had a look at the kitchen. That was enough to strike a final note of depression.
    Occupying one whole side of the kitchen was the range, and I stood and looked at the thing in amazement. We had a kitchen range at home, but my mother never cooked on it, she had a gas stove. But there was no gas stove in this kitchen, only this tremendous range, which was to become to me, although I didn’t know it at the time, a nightmare. It had ovens each side of it, one big and one small, and it had been so polished up with blacklead by the previous kitchen maid that you could almost see your face in it. It never looked like that after I did it somehow, I don’t know why. As the cook said, some people can polish and some can’t. In front of it was the steel fender, and that also was polished to a silvery brightness.
    Opposite it was a dresser with great big cupboards on the lower half of it and five shelves on the other half, all plain white wood. Not the small kind of dresser we had in our own little kitchen at home, but one that could take a whole dinner set, and when I say a whole one I don’t mean the kind you buy now which are really only halves; a hundred and twenty-six pieces of china were ranged on the shelves, and on the flat part of it, which was the top of the cupboards, were an enormous soup tureen, vegetable dishes, and sauce boats. It was my job, written down in my duties, to take this whole lot down once a week and wash every single piece of it, and scrub the dresser.
    On the third wall there were two doors; one led into servants’ hall. It used to be quite an enjoyable occupation when we were sitting in there having our meals to look at the legs of the passers-by in the street and to give a face to the legs. If you saw a fat pair of legs go by you would say, ‘Fifty if she’s a day’, and somebody would say, ‘No, not her, she’s got duck’s disease or water on the knees.’
    Incidentally, I never know why they called it a servants’ hall. It didn’t resemble a hall, it was just a room. But everywhere I went the room the servants sat in was called a servants’ hall.
    The other door led into the butler’s pantry. Although it was called a pantry it was not a place where food was kept. There were two sinks, one to put the soap in to wash all the silver, and the other with plain water to rinse it and to wash all the glasses. The butler and the parlourmaid between them did all the silver and all the glassware; not the knives, that came into the kitchen maid’s province.
    Another door in the fourth wall led into a long passage from the back door to the kitchen – a huge place, all stone-flagged. In this passage, hanging on the wall, was a long row of bells with indicators above them to show where they rang from, and it was my job every time a bell went to run full tilt out into the passage to see which bell it was. We had whistles in the house. You pulled a plug out in the wall and whistled up to the various rooms to see if you could catch anybody to tell them they were wanted. If you didn’t run like mad out into the passage, the bell would stop ringing before you got there, and you had no idea whether it was from the blue room, the pink room, first bedroom, second bedroom, fifth bedroom, drawing-room, or dining-room. So you would come back to the cook and say, ‘I don’t know which bell it was.’ ‘You must be quicker,’ she’d say, ‘otherwise all hell will be let loose upstairs.’ But what could you do? If you were in the middle of something you couldn’t drop it straight away. I was always in trouble over these bells at first, but at last I mastered the art, and nobody shot out quicker than I did when they rang.
    The kitchen floor itself was all stone, not nice shiny stone flags that you see new, but just sort of large bricks. They had to be scrubbed every day. Down the whole length of the room was

Similar Books

Noodle Up Your Nose

Frieda Wishinsky, Laliberte Louise-Andree

The Witness

Nora Roberts

Stay With Me

Garret Freymann-Weyr

Secrets

Leanne Davis

Sea Horse

Bonnie Bryant

Fools Paradise

Jennifer Stevenson